Getting Ready to Shop for Christmas—Or Not

GTY_christmas_presents_mm_150915_12x5_1600Tis the season—Christmas time is here. Have you made your list and checking it twice? If you walk into any store, even without a shopping list, you will spend money. And how can you not spend money with Christmas songs playing in the background? How can you not shop when “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” is playing on a store’s Musaz system? Stores know how to make us shop. Stores especially know how to make consumers open up their wallets during the Christmas season? But are you in control of your own spending?

The American economy is “consumer driven,” meaning if we don’t “shop until we drop,” then the whole economy can collapse like a house of cards. What else explains commercials—commercials bout everything, including toilet paper. Now why would anyone need to advertise toilet paper—something that should “sell itself” without one dime spent on television ads—especially a bunch of bears shaking their behinds? Commercials make people shop for stuff they don’t realize they need. Commercials make us aware of “new fangled” stuff that is supposed to make us happier, smarter, and cuter, or all three. And, Christmas is no different. Don’t you really need a Lexus for Christmas? Don’t you really need a new Smartphone? Well, Christmas makes us feel that we deserve to spend money, whether or not we have it. Between now and the middle of January, we will be “urged” to shop for all sorts of sales and bargains. We need this stuff. Or is it that merchants need to sell all the stuff on their store shelves?

Shopping is a “feel good experience.” When you work hard “for ya money,” you are free to spend it as you wish. What else can you do with money? You can spend it or save it? Most people have to spend most of their money anyway– on necessities such as rent, food, car payments, child care, insurance, credit card payments and other loans, medicine and stuff like that. Shopping for “discretionary stuff” gives us a needed break from the hands that automatically reach into our wallets and take money from us. So when we get an extra dime we want to spend it on stuff we want—whether we need it or not. And why not? Why not buy stuff for yourself and those you love to bring them a moment of joy. After all, no matter what you buy, it will only bring momentary enjoyment. What you buy new will be old in a few days—and the shine will wear off. Then you need some more new stuff. Christmas is no exception to the “joy of new stuff” rule.

The problem with Christmas shopping is paying the bill later—especially if you use credit cards—or borrowed money. The general rule about using a credit card—especially to buy Christmas gifts, is that you should be able to pay off your credit card in one or two payments. If you are using a credit card for gifts and it will take you all of next year to pay it off, then you might want to reconsider shopping with a credit card especially if it has one of those high, almost 30 percent, annual interest rates. You can go into a hole quickly making minimum payments on a credit card. The same applies to borrowed money. If you will need a year or two to pay for Christmas spending, maybe you should reconsider excessive spending that might bring momentary job, but bring you financial misery down the road. Still, Christmas makes us want to not act like Scrooge? We want to “get in Christmas spirit,” even all the Christmas commercials. We want to put up Christmas lights around the house, the Christmas tree, the gifts, the Christmas dinner—the whole nine yards. And don’t we deserve it? After stumbling through eleven long months of the year—don’t we deserve a “little Christmas” joy? Don’t we need at least a few days to prepare us from the doldrums of the long oncoming winter months that will keep us cooped up inside, shoveling snow, avoiding cold blasts of winter air? Don’t we really need the Christmas season to celebrate having made it through another year? Even with so much sadness, tragedy and violence around the world, don’t we need the Christmas season to remind us of the promise of “peace on earth?” Enjoy the holidays, just don’t spend yourself into a hole. And don’t forget the “reason for the season? Happy Holidays!!

Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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